Macedonian documentary tells story of remarkable woman who tends to bees and her ailing mother
Film distribution company NEON has picked up its fifth title from the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
In a statement on Monday, NEON announced it has acquired North American rights to Honeyland, the documentary out of Macedonia that won the Grand Jury Prize for World Cinema Documentary. The film directed by Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska won two additional awards at Sundance, including a Special Jury Prize for Impact for Change, along with a Special Jury Prize for Cinematography, recognizing the camera work of Samir Ljuma and Fejmi Daut.
Thank you, NEON, for the opportunity to bring Honeyland to audiences the way we always wanted it to be seen.
"We are so proud of the final film, and there is no better way to get immersed in it than to experience it on the big screen," Stefanov and Kotevska said in a statement. "Thank you, NEON, for the opportunity to bring Honeyland to audiences the way we always wanted it to be seen.”
Honeyland unspools in a tiny village in Macedonia where a woman named Hatidze Muratova raises bee colonies, selling a portion of the premium honey at market. When an itinerant family moves in next door, they take a shine to the bee business, but their lack of understanding of how to sustain a colony threatens to ruin Hatidze's beekeeping activities.
Hatidze not only tends to her bees, but to her seriously ill mother. They live in the most spartan conditions imaginable, in not much more than a hut with no electricity. Hatidze's deeply humane nature shines through, and the film also offers an environmental message about the paramount importance of sustainability.
Submarine brokered the Honeyland deal. NEON is on a hot streak with documentaries, acquiring Three Identical Strangers at Sundance last year. The film went on to make $12.3 million in theatrical release in North America. The company has likewise bought theatrical rights to Amazing Grace, the documentary about Aretha Franklin's recording of a live gospel in 1972. That is expected to hit theaters in March.
NEON is also behind two other docs that premiered at Sundance, Todd Douglas Miller’s Apollo 11 and John Chester’s The Biggest Little Farm. At the festival it acquired several scripted films as well, including the thriller Monos and the horror film The Lodge.
The company noted Honeyland "marks NEON’s fifth acquisition out of Sundance, with the company landing more films than any other key player at Sundance this year."
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.